Located in upscale Coral Gables near the University of Miami and the Miracle Mile's shopping and restaurants, the 2009-renovated Hyatt Regency has clean, spacious rooms and consistent service, making it a good bet. The fairly large, 5th-floor lap pool bests competitor Westin Colonnade's 2 blocks away.
Consistent, reliable, 250-room business hotel in a safe, residential area -- it's where briefcases and poolside loungers collide.
Located in Coral Gables, an affluent but low-key Mediterranean-style residential Miami neighborhood, the 250-room Hyatt Regency, like most chain business hotels, isn't edgy or avant-garde. It's clean, dependable, and ideal for business travelers or family members meeting students at nearby University of Miami. Roughly 40 percent of guests are in meetings all day, and the others are typically out shopping on Miracle Mile, playing golf at the nearby Biltmore, or flocking to the immaculate pool on the fifth-floor terrace. It's this pool that helps the Hyatt best its top competition, the Westin Colonnade, two blocks away.
On arrival, a porter appeared at the cab even before I'd finished paying the driver. He welcomed me to the hotel, pulled my bags from the trunk, and meanwhile somehow learned that I am "Ms. Blask" -- presumably by looking at my luggage tags.
I tested the concierge, who couldn't have been nicer or more thoughtful. Within a few minutes, he produced three Miami maps on the counter, on which he carefully marked arrows to help guide me to the Miracle Mile, the restaurants he suggested I try, and the championship golf course at the Biltmore, just a few minutes away. He even remembered my name when I came back in a few hours later.
Service at the Two Sisters restaurant, the only one on-site, was also friendly and prompt, except that my server forgot my side order of fruit. Hey, it happens. Similar slip-ups irked Melissa, a guest with whom I spoke who visits Miami on business every month. But, as she said, "These are just small, annoying details that wouldn't happen at the Four Seasons. What matters is that the service is friendly and has a positive attitude, and it's definitely that way here."
As Melissa also noted, some of the staff seems young, and not particularly versed in outstanding service, but they're extremely efficient and consistently prompt. My towels arrived in less than five minutes and my room service in 20 minutes. Plus, the woman who delivered my room service even picked up my free copy of USA Today left outside my door.
Five- to 10-minute walk to shopping and restaurants on the Miracle Mile, a short drive to three renowned golf courses, and 25 minutes to South Beach.
Built in the 1920s, this Mediterranean-style neighborhood confounds Miami stereotypes by being (ahem) genteel. Skirting hippie-chic Coconut Grove in the north and sticking to the coastline in the south, this residential community is known for golfing, pastels, and a shopping scene to rival Bal Harbor.
The Hyatt is on a relatively quiet four-lane thoroughfare surrounded by mid-rise office buildings and apartments. Its immediate vicinity is boring, but a five- to 10-minute walk away is Miracle Mile, an upscale shopping street with restaurants like Houston's and Morton's, and stores like Design Within Reach, American Apparel, and what seems like an endless number of wedding dress boutiques.
A mostly residential area with immaculately landscaped and lush gardens, the Gables' claims to fame are the University of Miami, the historic Biltmore Hotel and golf course, and multimillion-dollar homes. If you're looking to be close to the beach, this isn't the place -- it's about a 25-minute cab ride (around $35) to South Beach, or a 15-minute ride ($20 or so) to Key Biscayne.
Like the Westin Colonnade, the Hyatt's 250 rooms are spacious -- more than 400 square feet. They each have a king or two full beds, and the clean, modern uniform furnishings of the typical business hotel -- thick, heavy wood furniture, a big brown headboard, and brown carpet. To some, the rooms might look a little dark and gloomy for the Sunshine State. But as renovations were just completed in 2009, don't expect them to brighten up anytime soon.
Standard rooms come with kings or two double beds, before moving up to a petite suite which has a large sitting area (standard rooms only have a chair). My standard was on the seventh floor overlooking the pool and was very quiet, while others face the city and are equally quiet. Some rooms even come with balconies, patios, and skylights.
Beds are firm, and sport 250-thread count sheets, down duvets, and firm pillows -- slightly edging out the beds two blocks away at the Westin Colonnade, which are equally soft and comfortable, but have such thick duvets that I woke up sweating.
Every room comes with a massive, 42-inch flat-screen HDTV and basic cable (NBC, ESPN, and National Geographic, among others). Rooms also include modern touches like an iPod docking station, and an electronic safe that's big enough for a laptop. A less techy-touch, the hotel leaves a copy of USA Today outside your door in the morning.
Minibars come stocked with nips of Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker Black, and Absolut (between $7.50 and $8.00), cans of beer ($4.50), plus the usual sodas, juice, and water (between $2.50 and $3.00, though there's a soda machine just down the hall where drinks are about a dollar cheaper). Snacks include Ritz Bitz ($2.25), M&Ms ($2.25), and pistachios ($10). There's also a coffee machine in the cabinet with house grounds.
Bathrooms are spacious and feature white ginger Portico bath products, which smell eerily like root beer. However, my showerhead didn't work very well, and wasn't nearly as nice as the Westin's double head. Half of the water seemed to come out of the spout near the bottom of the tub. Also, no bathrobes or slippers.
Immaculate outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, busy gym with good equipment, but Wi-Fi costs an extra $9.95 per day.
The heated pool on the fifth-floor outdoor terrace is clean and long enough for laps, and there's also a small Jacuzzi hidden away in a mezzanine in the corner. It's a much better pool than the one at the Westin Colonnade, two blocks away. It has a better atmosphere and is more lively, but doesn't have as good a view.
The gym is also located on the 5th floor. The room is small, though mirrors on two walls give it the illusion of being bigger. Cardio equipment includes four treadmills, three ellipticals, two reclining bikes, and one upright bike, plus a multipurpose weight machine, an assortment of benches, and a set of free weights. Though, ladies, none of these weights are smaller than 10 lbs. The equipment is in good, but not great condition, likely because it gets used often -- there was always someone in there when I dropped by.
Wi-Fi isn't free, like at many chain hotels including the Westins and Marriotts. A one-day pass costs $9.95 through T-Mobile.
There are free cribs and rollaway beds, connecting rooms, a great kids' menu, and baby supplies to-go.
Cribs and roll-away beds are free, and fit into any room. There are also connecting rooms, which can join beds of any size.
The pool is heated, but the shallowest end is still pretty deep, just under three feet.
The Two Sisters restaurant has a great kids' menu with extensive options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some of the options include scrambled eggs, pancakes, a roast turkey sandwich, chicken nuggets, and turkey hot dogs (between $4.95 and $6.95). Plus, there are also healthy snacks like fruit cups, carrot sticks, and Horizon Organic string cheese (between $.95 and $1.95).
You can even have baby supplies shipped to the hotel ahead of time via the Hyatt's Babies Travel Lite program. What does that mean? You don't have to schlep the stroller, the diapers, the books, or even the food, if you don't feel like it -- they can be waiting for you at the hotel when you arrive.
Basic food with skimpy portions, but at least it's fresh and reasonably priced. For more options, walk five minutes to Miracle Mile.
Two Sisters restaurant is on the ground floor of the hotel and serves basic, but fresh, food, and is reasonably priced as far as hotel restaurants go -- entrées run between $13 (paella) and $18 (skirt steak). My $8 Two Sisters salad came with fresh mesclun mix, carrots, cucumbers, and spiced pecans (a few of them anyway, chopped really, really small). They do cut some corners, especially with my $12, two-egg breakfast. The orange juice isn't freshly squeezed, they skimp on the wedges of fingerling potatoes, and the toast looks like it came from a plastic sleeve.
Guests on the go can drop by Perks -- an on-site coffee shop that serves everything from lattes to prepared sandwiches from 6:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Those looking for a little sophistication can drop by Bar 50 from 2:00 p.m. until midnight where they can imbibe in the 2 for 1 happy hour special or catch a sports game. The lounge also offers small plates.
A few minutes away are some solid chain options like Houston's and Morton's. I didn't get to eat at Por Fin -- two locals recommended the relatively new Spanish-Mediterranean fusion spot, although Yelp reviews are mixed.
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